July 3, 2008 / 4:07 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. to lift block on Italy's Brunello wine imports

Bottles of Brunello di Montalcino red wine are displayed at a wine shop in the Tuscan town of Montalcino in central Italy in this September 22, 2004 file photo. REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files

MONTALCINO, Italy (Reuters) - The United States will lift import restrictions on Italy’s Brunello di Montalcino wine after hatching an agreement with Rome to attest to its authenticity, officials said on Thursday.

The deal entrusting certification to Italian government authorities — instead of the producers themselves — aims to restore confidence in the top-shelf Tuscan wine after hundreds of thousands of bottles were seized in April.

Italian authorities suspected that winemakers used grapes other than Sangiovese, the only grape allowed in Brunello di Montalcino wine, which boasts annual sales of about 120 million euros ($190.6 million).

The wine producers deny any wrongdoing, saying they have only used Sangiovese grapes.

The United States, where a quarter of the wine’s annual production is sold, took the step last month of banning shipments unless U.S. importers attested to the bottles’ contents. The new agreement lifts this requirement.

U.S. Ambassador to Italy Ronald Spogli said the new Italian initiative, which creates special checks for wine headed to the United States, had effectively concluded the matter.

“I’m happy that the Brunello question was resolved rationally and reasonably, as well as quickly,” said Spogli, speaking at a joint press conference in Montalcino alongside Italy’s agriculture minister, Luca Zaia.

Zaia said a government decree would entrust certification to his ministry’s quality-control agency, the “Ispettorato centrale per il controllo della qualità”, until the end of the year for all U.S.-bound wine.

The decree is due to be published in Italy’s official gazette in the coming days, bringing it into effect.

Writing by Phil Stewart

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